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Liberty Christian Academy's turn-of-the-year wrestling tournament is rapidly gaining a reputation for excellence.
So are the Bedford County grapplers who participate in it.
All three local teams finished in the top half of the scoring, with Jefferson Forest and Staunton River logging in top-five performances. Liberty wound up 13th in a 26-team field.
Here's how the teams fared:
1. Poquoson 242.5
2. Liberty Christian 192.5
3. Jefferson Forest 172.5
4. Staunton River 168.0
5. Cape Henry 144.5
6. Waynesboro 141.5
7. Paul VI 130.5
8. Lord Botetourt 128.0
9. Norfolk Academy 117.5
Liberty amassed 84 points to finish ahead of some solid squads such as Chatham, Riverheads and Bishop Sullivan.
Five county grapplers made it to the finals. Only one, however, emerged as top dog. Jefferson Forest's Bret Romanzak won the field at 126 pounds.
The junior pinned his way into the finals before getting the fall over Scott Roper (from Richmond's Collegiate) in the title bout. Romanzak had Roper on his back twice before sealing the deal in the third round.
Two of Romanzak's teammates joined him in the finals. Freshman sensation Blake Justis took second in the 120-pound class, losing the final on a last-second pin by Cape Henry's Logan Harvich. Justis now stands 18-1 for the season.
Fellow Cav Anthony Rubilar was done in by Norfolk Academy's Dustin Runzo, who remained unbeaten for the season with a major decision in the final.
Staunton River put two in the finals. Junior Quannie Blake lost a bruising bout at 145, with Poquoson's Kyle Poultney taking a 10-7 win.
Sophomore Elijah Seay fell to Poquoson's Ross Graham in the 182 finals.
Other local grapplers who placed at LCA included:
-Randy Lin, 113, third
-Peyton Woodall, 138, fifth
-Luke Mitchell, 145, third
-Taylor Goolsby, 152, sixth
-Matt Canter, 182, sixth
-Nick Jennings, 113, sixth
-Thomas Rezzonico, 126, seventh
-Jake Thompson, 132, third
-Kenny Hale, 152, fifth
-Andy Jacobs, 220, fourth
-Garrett Day, 132, fourth
-Tucker Grant, 182, eighth
-Mason Wolk, 220, third
-Tyler Gordon, 285, seventh
Going into the finals, Staunton River held a slight lead over Jefferson Forest for third place. "As usual, JF is right on us," noted River Head Coach Ronnie Long, whose team filled 13 of the 14 slots. "We're starting to get it together."
Still, the coach was not pleased. "I'm not happy with seven wrestlers placing," he said. "We should have more."
Still, Long was pleased with the big points that a plethora of pins by his lads brought to the team. "We're gearing up for the end of the year, when it really counts," he advised.
Jefferson Forest Head Coach Hutch Hutchinson was not a happy camper, in spite of his team's third-place finish. "We should have had 10 of our guys place," he grumbled.
That's a tall order, considering he only brought 10 to the fore. "It's like playing football with eight players," he said. "You have to do more with less."
Asked about the shortage of wrestlers at such a good program, Hutch said, "It's easier for kids to sit at home, playing video and pretending to be something like a Navy SEAL, than to actually...make something out of themselves."
Liberty seems to be going the other way. Coach Ethan Lucas had 13 wrestlers in the fray. Last year, the Minutemen placed two. They doubled that total this year. "We have better numbers, focus and work ethic than we've had in the past," said Lucas.
"We'll learn from (this tourney) for our upcoming tournaments."
Notes and observations
-In anticipation of the Bedford County Meet (Jan. 22 at Staunton River), it would appear that the most exciting weight class might be 132. The 2-3-4 finish by (respectively) Rubilar, Thompson and Day at LCA certainly bodes well for the future.
-The only other weight class that had three county finishers was 182, where Seay (second), Canter (sixth) and Grant (eighth) all earned a trip to the awards podium.
-Most troubling is the fact that there were four weight classes in which no Bedford County wrestlers placed: 106, 160, 170 and 195.
-A couple of placing matches featured Bedford County vs. Bedford County. Thompson earned a quick pin of Day at 132.
In the 220 third-place bout, Liberty's Wolk earned a tight 3-1 decision over Jacobs.
-Judah Bruce repeated as champ at this meet with two slight differences from last year: He did so this year at 170 instead of 160, and he did so wrestling for LCA instead of Rockbridge County.